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Make the right choice. That’s a lesson parents and school counselors want children to learn. We talk to our kids and our students about choices all the time, especially around the subject of dangerous behaviors such as underage drinking and drug use. But adult monologues that sound like public service announcements are not enough; as school counselors and parents, we must listen and observe as well.

This is especially critical during the later elementary school years, when pre-teens are still willing — even eager — to listen to adults. Establishing open and honest communication, which in turn builds trusting relationships, serves both adults and children well. This is especially true during those often frustrating teen years, when kids try hardest to break free and are most tempted to experiment outside their comfort zones.

Children need to know that they have adults they can count on and trust. They need to know their words and actions are valued. They need to know that adults will listen. If we want them to make the right choices in life, we need to take the time to hear what is said and unsaid. It’s an investment worth making.

Jill Cook

Assistant Director

American School Counselor Association